Swim Call


(U.S. Navy photo by MC2 Idle)

I stumbled upon this photo while browsing the web the other day. It is a cool shot of a Sailor diving off a carrier (USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN (CV 72)) in the Arabian Gulf.

I am having trouble with this.

For one thing, I have never enjoyed a swim call. No ship of mine ever held one, and I was on a lot of ships. Maybe I was just unlucky. Maybe the schedule didn’t allow it. Maybe it was just chance. But the words of the great philosopher Graham Hess (character in the movie “Signs”) keep haunting me: “Is it possible that there are no coincidences?”

When I think back, I have always had a problem with swim calls. Here is a cartoon from a quarter century ago.

If my ship would have actually had a swim call, I would like to think I would be one of the guys in this photo, diving off the elevator.

(U.S. Navy photo by MCSN Welch)

Truth be told, I would have probably been one of these guys.

In a swim call evolution, lots of things can happen – some good, some bad. But mostly bad. (Caution! You are about to descend into the dark, paranoid corners of a cartoonist’s brain.)

In the “bad” category:

1. You could get sucked into an inlet. (Supposedly this is taken care of, but I’m not an engineer so I’m not sure.)
2. You could get hurt in the fall.
3. Your ship could leave you behind.

4. Sea snakes.
5. There are people with loaded guns floating around you.

6. Speaking of which, oh by the way, there are sharks.

In the “good” category:

1. You can have a good time.

So maybe it isn’t a coincidence that I never had a swim call. Maybe it was by design. Perhaps there is a reason I now live in a state that is about as far removed from the ocean as a state can be.

Where there are wolves.


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  1. Love it! I remember many a time watching the sea snakes while on board USNS Mercy during Operations Desert Shield and Storm. No way I was going to go swim with them. 🙂 🙂

  2. I have to admit that I have loved the swim calls that I have had. It’s worth mentioning that I was on an amphib at the time, so we just lowered the stern gate and stepped into the water instead of jumping from high up.

    It was a great way to destress for a couple hours and just take a break from the normal grind. Of course, the shark aspect is always scary, and once it was fairly windy, so the ship was actually getting pushed at about 2 or 3 knots. As a result, it wasn’t very relaxing since we basically had to keep swimming just to keep up with the ship. There are some dangers to you.

  3. 4 years on a sub, two swim calls in the Caribbean and one in the Mediterranean. Of course later I learn that Great Whites were recently discovered swimming not far from where we were in the Med.

    I always reminded my shipmates that as soon as you hit the water you move several steps down the food chain ladder.

  4. mikeferguson on

    Jeff, GREAT cartoons and blog comments. How could we possibly have overlooked a swim call in the Persian Gulf, or on the way to Australia??? That said, I have the same reaction as you do … if I ever made one, it would have been only one … just to say that I did it. Sea snakes, particularly off the coast of Vietnam were always an interesting possibility! Good show! Mike

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